The Tampa Bay Buccaneers believe Doug Martin will gain ground as swiftly and decisively as the team itself did near the end of the first night of the 2012 NFL Draft.
The Buccaneers selected Martin after trading up five spots from their second-round pick, and the cost was a swap of fourth-round picks with the Denver Broncos. Tampa Bay moved up to #31 overall, the second-to-last pick of the first round on Thursday night, from #36, where they were originally scheduled to pick four spots into the second round on Friday night. In return, the Bucs sent the sixth pick of the fourth round, #101 overall, to the Broncos in exchange for #125 overall.
That the Buccaneers had that high fourth-round pick to bargain with was the product of another heady move on Thursday night. Originally slated to pick fifth overall in the opening round, Tampa Bay traded down two spots with the Jacksonville Jaguars and then took a player they coveted immensely, Alabama safety Mark Barron. The price the Jaguars paid for the move up was that 101st overall selection.
Thus, on one of the team's most active opening draft night in years, the Buccaneers were able to convert picks #5 and #36 into one of the highest-rated safety prospects in years, the second-rated running back on most draft boards and, for good, measure, a fourth-round pick to replace a void the team had in that frame coming into the night.
Of course, more important than the mechanics of the trade is that the Buccaneers got their man. The 5-9, 223-pound Martin is a solidly-built back with excellent burst through the line of scrimmage and good open-field moves. Paired with returning back LeGarrette Blount, the former Boise State star should give the Buccaneers the deep and powerful running attack around which new Head Coach Greg Schiano intends to build his defense.
Martin finished his Boise State career with 3,431 yards and 43 touchdowns on 617 carries, averaging 5.6 yards per tote. As a senior, he was a key figure in the Broncos' juggernaut offense, which scored more than 44.2 points per game. Martin ran for 1,299 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2011 and was on the watch list for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation's top running back. To cap his collegiate career, he was named the MVP of the 2011 Maaco Bowl thanks to his 151 yards and one score on the ground as well as his 100-yard kickoff return TD to open the game.
As expected by many draft analysts, Martin was the second running back off the board after Alabama's Trent Richardson, who went third overall to the Cleveland Browns following a trade up with the Minnesota Vikings. Scouts praise Martin for his decisive running style, his strength and the explosiveness with which he hits the hole when running between the tackles.
Heading into the draft, the Buccaneers were low in numbers in their running back corps but not short on talent. Blount, the team's primary starter for the past two seasons, remains in the stable and should team with Martin to give the team it's most powerful running attack in years. An undrafted free agent in 2010 who came to the Buccaneers as a waiver claim in September of that year, Blount has since rushed for 1,788 yards and 11 touchdowns. His average of 4.6 yards per rush is the best in team history among all backs with at least 150 carries.
Most NFL teams now rely on two or more backs to make their ground game go. The Buccaneers' own history provides an excellent example of such teamwork: Tampa Bay's highest finish ever in the league's rushing yardage rankings (fourth) came in 1998 when Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott split the duties almost exactly in half. In addition, rookie running backs are often able to make an instant impact on their new teams, and Martin has been described as a "three-down" back who can help in all phases of the game.
Martin is the first running back the Buccaneers have selected in the first round since taking Cadillac Williams fifth overall in 2005. Williams, now with the St. Louis Rams, was the NFL's Rookie of the Year in 2005 and also had a very strong bounce-back campaign in 2009 but his Buccaneer career was hampered by two serious knee injuries. Still, he ranks fourth in franchise history with 3,677 rushing yards. Tampa Bay has actually taken a running back in the first round five other times in team history, but never late in the round. The other four – Williams, Warrick Dunn, Bo Jackson and Ricky Bell – were all taken between first and 12th overall. Martin's overall draft position is much more akin to where the Buccaneers got Mike Alstott, their second all-time leading rusher, in 1996, at #35 overall. The Bucs have also seen good returns from the selections of Errict Rhett, Reggie Cobb, Johnny Davis and Jimmy DuBose, all picked between #30 and #35 in their respective draft years.